Directed by Damián Szifrón. Starring Érica Rivas, Ricardo Darín, Oscar Martínez, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Diego Gentile, Walter Donado, Osmar Núñez, Germán de Silva, Julieta Zylberberg, Rita Cortese, María Marull. (2014, R, 122 min.)
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., March 27, 2015
Snap! That’s the crack of people teetering on the verge in each of the six segments in the perversely entertaining Argentine film Wild Tales, a more-than-deserving recent Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language film. From the jaw-dropping opening episode in which passengers on a commercial flight realize they all share one thing in common – a soured relationship with a mentally unstable man named Gabriel Pasternak (think of him as the Latin Keyser Söze) – to the freewheeling final episode displaying love’s absurdities at the wedding reception from hell, this inspired anthology firmly puts its talented screenwriter/director Szifrón on the map of filmmakers to watch. (It’s not surprising the Almodóvar brothers, Pedro and Agustín, co-produced this film. The same kind of cinematic madness courses in their veins.) In addition to his flawless camerawork, Szifrón demonstrates an astute literary sense in this film. Each tale in the sextet is self-contained, crafted in the Munro short-story tradition (both H.H. and Alice) of ordinary people and unordinary twists. While each segment stands on its own, all six are thematically linked by a shot of vengeance served up with a karma chaser, a quenching gulp of human lunacy.
None of the episodes disappoints, though you may favor some over others, depending on your view as to what constitutes the best revenge. The most accomplished of the lot, however, is indisputable: the segment titled “El Más Fuerte” (“The Strongest”). Set on a lone desert highway, this brilliantly compact tale of escalated road rage evinces the folly of blind machismo, giving us a brutally funny and frightening portrayal of two grown men fighting like children on a playground, except the showdown here is to the death. (Watching these idiots trying to even the score may trigger a pang of regret over the last time you lost your shit over something stupid.) This centerpiece sequence is Spielberg meets Darwin on a secluded ribbon of road somewhere in the Patagonian Steppe, and it’s a showstopper. It’s just not a wild tale. It’s a fucking insane one in this thing we call la vida loca.